Raw, affecting lyric from an assured poet.

Art of Mind III

THE EVOLUTION OF A TRILOGY

Poems covering love, life, heart and home.

Aidoo’s new multigenre collection of verse and images provides no introduction, instead dropping readers into the deep end of his fluid poetry. Readers don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s part of the fun in this lively, bursting compendium. Most of the book consists of poetry, a musical free verse that’s even better spoken aloud. The rest is respectable paintings from a variety of artists, including competent oil paintings, some of which depict scenes from Chicago. But the real draw is Aidoo’s poetry. The author has many talents, most impressive of which is his remarkable versatility. In the hands of a lesser poet, the range of topics—the joys of loving a large woman, the anticipation of waiting for a new video game, the beauty of the pop star Shakira—would feel forced or even absurd. But Aidoo seamlessly weaves these and more together in a gorgeous, unexpected tapestry. His ability to integrate pop-culture references into serious verse without seeming flip or too clever is truly impressive, calling to mind Michael Robbins’ work in Alien Vs. Predator (2004). Aidoo’s style is equally strong: Diction is conversational without being casual, easy without seeming lazy. He catches the rhythms of speech—no small feat. One of his best moments arrives in a late poem called “The Grievance”—“So the deceased can rejoice that they are forgotten for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. They’d want the flower-givers to keep on walking…and begin that work on their own headstones.”—in which he subtly evokes our odd ambivalence about death and dying, all in approachable, unpretentious language. This book is the last of a trilogy, but let’s hope Aidoo isn’t done yet.

Raw, affecting lyric from an assured poet.

Pub Date: March 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615694344

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Real Print for Real People

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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An exciting poetic work that lives up to its emotional and linguistic potential.

THE BETTER MONSTERS

A complex work of poetry about seeking one’s rightful place in the world.

Poets have long used the topics of arrival and departure to explore feelings of belonging. In this debut book, Dutt gives us a glimpse into what a foreigner’s arrival to the United States looks like: “how to then shed this skin / wrapped since youth / how to speak American / when we arrive / without our imagination / to bring down bodies.” This sense of displacement festers in this book, which effectively presents a portrait of a family lost between two cultures and two generations: “We can’t talk / about what we did how sometimes it’s different / from the way it’s shown but they think they know / and we can’t tell them we can’t even tell each / other.” The family systematically struggles with preconceived notions that some Americans have about the Indian population. This subject matter is nothing new, especially in the modern era, but thankfully, Dutt’s collection is a productive contribution to a conversation about inclusion and tolerance and not a rehashing of stereotypical attitudes. Despite the tumult of arrival in a new place, daily life is shown to function as prosaically as it did before. In “Over Cider and Whiskey in Hotel Rooms,” the speaker compares the generational gap that exists between her and a figure who appears to be her son. The poem builds as the stakes get higher, though it ends on a small instance of everyday life: “we’d be so annoyed / when someone would slap the car / to pass and cross // we’d all have to get out / and check.” It’s these moments, when the poems seep through the speaker’s humanism, that make the collection so gripping. And at times, Dutt takes readers by surprise with tragically poetic stanzas: “all those stones / go home to your country / my country? / where we are on any map.”

An exciting poetic work that lives up to its emotional and linguistic potential.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77126-156-2

Page Count: 66

Publisher: Mansfield Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A tender and clever look at a writer’s life.

WORDS IN ROWS

POETRY AND PROSE

Callen (Running Out of Footprints, 2013) offers a quaint, playful collection of poetry and prose that spans nearly 50 years of her life.

The creation of “I Love You, Sun,” the first poem in this book, dates back to 1967; the closing poem, “Galaxy Girls,” was written last year. In between are 39 other pieces about nature, love, and the absurdities of Callen’s long life. Her descriptions of nature are filled with wonder and delight: “On a clear night…the stars hung rich and heavy over us, and it felt like we could reach out and touch heaven,” she writes about the Alaskan sky; in “Come Into Life With Me,” she urges readers to “Stand wild in the pulsing rain / and know the strength of its wetness.” Love is also a major theme, both romantic and platonic. In “Puzzle,” she’s intrigued by an unnamed someone, “And, fan that I am of wholeness / I grab you up in little gifted pieces / and turn you around and around / against the straight edges of my brain.” Callen is a talented storyteller who recounts many different scenes with wit and humor. In “Blue Moon Baby,” for example, an acquaintance details his daughter’s birth and the burying of the placenta: “He finally ran out of words, like a tightly spun top that finally came to rest,” Callen writes. In “A Wonderful Fantasy,” the author works herself into a tizzy anticipating an old boyfriend’s overnight stay, which ends in disappointment. “Never Enough” tells of Callen’s family as they struggle to calculate how big a batch of mashed potatoes will be required to satiate holiday guests. Only two pieces seem out of place in this collection: the grim “Time Twister,” which details the 1966 Tower killings at the University of Texas at Austin, and “Mom Visits,” an imagined reunion between the author and her late mother.

A tender and clever look at a writer’s life. 

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9884716-1-0

Page Count: 142

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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